Saturday, February 13, 2010

looking for the library where it lives

I haven't been blogging too much lately because I have been very busy starting graduate school! I am going for my Master's degree in Library and Information Studies. Classes started about two weeks ago and I am really enjoying them so far.

Library: An Unquiet History, was my first assigned book for one of my classes. I actually picked this one up awhile ago because it seemed like an interesting read. It was certainly nice not to have to buy this at the school bookstore, where it, along with every other book, was overpriced.

Battles covers an overview and histories of libraries throughout time. The book is a bit scattered, jumping from place to place and from idea to idea. It seems a bit unorganized but interesting. Many of the things he talks about I would want to read more about, such as the ancient Muslim libraries which were just as impressive, if not more so, than the library at Alexandria. He hits the big topics, Alexandria, Guettenburg, the Nazi book burning, and the development of modern libraries.

I think this is a good book to get a quick look into the world of library history, however, I think that there are some better more complete works out there, such as A Gentle Madness by Nicholas A. Basbanes, which covers book collecting and libraries. Basbanes book is much longer than Battles, but far more interesting.

One, heartbreaking quote:

"Andras Riedlmayer described a colleague who survived the siege of Sarajevo. In the winter, the scholar and his wife ran out of firewood, and so began to burn their books for heat and cooking. 'This forces one to think critically,' Riedlmayer remembered his friend saying. 'One must prioritize. First you burn old college textbooks, which you haven't read in thirty years. Then there are the duplicates. But eventually, you're forced to make tougher choices. Who burns today: Dostoevsky or Proust?' I asked Riedlmayer if his friend had any books left when the war was over. 'Oh yes,' he replied, his face lit by a flickering smile. 'He still had many books. Sometimes, he told me, you look at the books and just choose to go hungry."

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